My wife spent some time in Spain a long time ago and she has wanted to go back ever since, so we decided to rent an RV in Europe and hit the road, with Spain as the eventual destination. It required weeks of planning, and heavy reliance on the Internet.
Whenever we fly to Europe, we try to go after the peak season, meaning after September 15. Tickets are much cheaper (and so is renting an RV), and the weather is still beautiful.
We had lived and worked in Germany for years, and so that’s where we wanted to begin our journey. Two major RV rental companies seemed to be the best for us in the Munich area: Hymer (one of the biggest RV builders in the country) and the German Auto Club: ADAC. We decided to go with ADAC because of the excellent customer service. After the online reservation, they mailed us a DVD introducing us to the type of RV we would be using and explaining everything from how to drive the unit to how to work the septic system. It was all covered in a very simple, easy to understand way.
We picked up our RV in Munich at the end of September. Again they showed us everything, filled the fresh-water tank, and we were ready to go. One major difference with this motorhome was the absence of a black-water tank. European RVs have a cassette (it’s like the holding tank of a bigger Porta-Potty), which can be removed from outside, and emptied with the push of a button, making it a simple, safe and clean solution. It is a bit more work than a tank though.
The small motorhome had everything we needed, but the rental did not come with cutlery or bed ware. You can buy the cutlery for the trip for 54 euros (about $71) and bed stuff for 43 euros (about $57.) Yes, BUY it. You can keep it, take it home, throw it out; they don’t want it back, so every rental starts with new and clean bedding and kitchenware. Lots of other goodies are included though, like very good maps, a camping and RV park directory and an RV parking directory.
RVs in Europe are much smaller than in North America (we could park ours most of the time in the car parking lot) and for a good reason: fuel prices. The average price was $5.30 a gallon. We had a small Fiat with a diesel engine that got very good fuel mileage and was still very strong and fast. Average speed was over 62 miles an hour and the motorhome needed less fuel than our minivan at home.
We could drive to everywhere we planned because of the small RV. Parking was never a problem, not even in very crowded Monaco. The RV Parking Guide & Map listed parking spots in all the bigger cities; some of the spots were free without hookups and some had electric hookups for a small fee. We stayed most of the time at gas stations for the night but for a few nights we stayed at the beach. From Munich, we drove west to Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and then south to France and Spain along the coast highway. For food, gas, even for a coffee it makes sense to leave the toll freeway and go shopping in little towns. Prices at service stations on the freeway were double those in the countryside. We always filled up the fridge in little country villages.
There are many huge truck stops with laundry at the Spanish border town of La Jounquera, but the prices are shocking. For two loads (wash and dry) we paid almost $20. No complaints because a few hours later we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and night at the beach absolutely free. Parking is allowed right at the sandy Mediterranean beaches just north of Barcelona. Driving is not a problem; very good signs everywhere, but the toll roads make it expensive. In Italy, France and Spain all freeways are toll roads; you have to pay at giant toll plazas, usually between 5 and 25 euros. Our toll expenditures for the whole trip were $300. An RV rental is about $900 a week with unlimited mileage. For that money you have a vehicle, accommodations and the freedom to park and be home anywhere, anytime.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Even the budget-minded traveler saves a lot with a rented RV. It is a very comfortable way to see a big part of Europe and the freedom is priceless.
(Hymer’s website at hymer.com has an English version, but online booking of motorhomes is currently available only in German. The website is being updated to allow booking in English. The German Auto Club website (adac.de) is in German.)
Janos Balogh, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, is planning to become a full-time RVer when he retires. His travels have taken him to 38 countries.